Let me begin, people of Athens, by beseeching all the Powers of Heaven that on this trial I may find in Athenian hearts such benevolence towards me as I have ever cherished for the city and the people of Athens. My next prayer is for you, and for your conscience and honor. May the gods so inspire you that the temper with which you listen to my words shall be guided, not by my adversary— that would be monstrous indeed!— but by the laws and by the judicial oath, by whose terms among other obligations you are sworn to give to both sides an impartial hearing. The purpose of that oath is, not only that you shall discard all prejudice, not only that you shall show equal favor, but also that you shall permit every litigant to dispose and arrange his topics of defence according to his own discretion and judgement.
Among many advantages which Aeschines holds over me in this contention, there are two, men of Athens, of great moment. In the first place, I have a larger stake on the issue; for the loss of your favor is far more serious to me than the loss of your verdict to him. For me, indeed—but let me say nothing inauspicious at the outset of my speech: I will only say that he accuses me at an advantage. Secondly, there is the natural disposition of mankind to listen readily to obloquy and invective, and to resent self-laudation.
To him the agreeable duty has been assigned; the part that is almost always offensive remains for me. If as a safeguard against such offence, I avoid the relation of my own achievements, I shall seem to be unable to refute the charges alleged against me, or to establish my claim to any public distinction. Yet, if I address myself to what I have done, and to the part I have taken in politics, I shall often be obliged to speak about myself. Well, I will endeavor to do so with all possible modesty; and let the man who has initiated this controversy bear the blame of the egoism which the conditions force upon me.
You must all be agreed, people of Athens, that in these proceedings I am concerned equally with Ctesiphon, and that they require from me no less serious consideration. Any loss, especially if inflicted by private animosity, is hard to bear; but to lose your goodwill and kindness is the most painful of all losses, as to gain them is the best of all acquisitions.
Such being the issues at stake, I implore you all alike to listen to my defense against the accusations laid, in a spirit of justice. So the laws enjoin—the laws which Solon, who first framed them, a good democrat and friend of the people, thought it right to validate not only by their enactment but by the oath of the jury; not distrusting you, if I understand him aright, but perceiving that no defendant can defeat the charges and calumnies which the prosecutor prefers with the advantage of prior speech, unless every juryman receives with goodwill the pleas of the second speaker, as an obligation of piety to the gods by whom he has sworn, and forms no final conclusion upon the whole case until he has given a fair and impartial hearing to both sides.
It appears that I have today to render account of the whole of my private life as well as of my public transactions. I must therefore renew my appeal to the gods; and in your presence I now beseech them, first that I may find in your hearts such benevolence towards me as I have ever cherished for Athens, and secondly that they will guide you to such a judgement upon this indictment as shall redound to the good repute of the jury, and to the good conscience of every several juryman.
If then Aeschines had confined his charges to the matters alleged in the prosecution, I should have immediately addressed my defence to the resolution of the Council; but as he has wastefully devoted the greater part of his speech to irrelevant topics, mostly false accusations, I conceive it to be both fair and necessary, men of Athens, to say a few words first on those matters, lest any of you, misled by extraneous arguments, should listen with estrangement to my justification in respect of the indictment.